At our core, every human being longs to belong.
That’s not a claim this former lone wolf artist makes easily, but it’s something my blood knows now.
“Well-being is about a harmonious relationship with oneself. But it is also about having empathetic, successful, and gratifying relationships with others and nature.” – Rodolfo Guttilla, executive director at Natura
I spent four days with over 250 entrepreneurs, business artists, artists, and open-hearted human beings from around the world. And in a rare instance with a group that size, I belonged.
I felt comfortable enough to stand before a smiling audience donning my red pants and deliver a performance poem called “Coat Thief” that includes the climactic line, “Why wait? Go naked now.”
It’s a key ideal that humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow recognized decades ago as one of a handful of fundamental drives in the human spirit, and it is a key ideal we at Tracking Wonder emphasize when consulting certain business artists about their signature brand stories.
In fact, we’re pretty adamant about DIT (Do It Together) over DIY.
But my Camp GLP experience let my knowledge seep deeply into my bloodstream.
At the event, I had intimate conversation after intimate conversation.
A woman born in London to Nigerian parents told me her story of fleeing from political instability to the United States at 16 and becoming inspired by Albert Schweitzer. No one had seen her signature medicine to heal others, but she persisted into med school.
A Texan woman told me her story of being a quiet nine-year-old who took her sewing tools to the school playground and got in trouble for bringing needles to school. No one saw her potential gift to focus, sew, and make things, but she’s persisting to find her sacred space to flourish.
A bunk mate told me his story of losing his premature baby two months ago and how that baby’s brief life fulfilled its purpose by shifting the family’s attention.
At camp, we played while we learned. The camp staff organized 250 of us into four teams of blue, red, green, and yellow. For a couple of hours each day, we were wild, cooperative, and playfully competitive boys and girls. As artists and professionals on my blue team tugged for dear life in the tug of war match, every cell in my body seemed to wake up and cheer primal yells of encouragement.
Groups can make me nervous. I’ve grown up fairly secure in social settings but have maintained my defenses against group-think to assure my own mind’s sanctity.
To belong does not mean to surrender your capacity to think, create, and do business for yourself.
To belong is to feel acknowledged, honored, and respected for whom you uniquely are and in turn to give space for others’ uniqueness.
To belong is to feel that your quirks are potential strengths, that your oddities are potential medicine, that your peculiarities are potential badges of honor.
A flip-side question for you: How are you enabling belonging for yourself and for your patch of the planet?
From the research I’ve gathered in the past six years, Americans and UKers have never felt more lonely. Significant numbers of people lack at least one person that he or she can confide in and feel supported by in times of need and in times of celebration.
So what are you doing to enable belonging? Here are some ideas.
Enable belonging for your own flow
Reach out to 1-3 or more other business artists – people engaged in long-term endeavors or life transitions – and form a Wild Pack.
If you go to an event or gathering or camp, open yourself to unattached conversations. Ask questions about people’s stories. “Who are you?” and “Where do you come from?” remain fundamental building blocks for story.
Speak less to sell and prove yourself. Listen more to engage.
And then follow up with people. Stay in touch.
Facebook is gaining a resurgence in part because of this increasing need to belong. A “like” and “friend” never felt so right.
If you work solo and feel isolated, pop out to local venues to work. I come to Pierre Luc-Moey’s Lekker 209 sometimes to see what’s happening in my live ‘hood, New York’s Hudson Valley. When I walk in, the manager Brianna smiles and says, “Want your Americano, no cream or sugar?” That’s belonging.
Enable belonging for others
Know and empathize with whom your main patch of the planet is. And make space for them to belong.
Ginny Taylor has done so beautifully. To move from sexual trauma to wonder – that’s the Story Ginny Taylor unfolds for women at Women of Wonder. She’s a marvel to witness.
Grace Welker enables belonging for teen girls – belonging to themselves, to one another, and to mentors. We at Tracking Wonder are proud to support her Oasis Pages Diary for Teen Girls project – for teen girls and the people who love them via our Pubslush book crowd funding community for book lovers & authors.
Start your own meet-up. I instigated HV:CREATE – a meet-up for business artists and creatives of all stripes in the Hudson Valley. It has satisfied my own and dozens of others’ need to belong.
As part of her ArtMark Story, Saundra Goldman of The Creative Mix started a Facebook group to discuss questions about creative practice. Creatives of all stripes belong there.
As part of her ArtMark Story, author Laraine Herring started Fierce Monkey Tribe to hold space for writers to belong.
Live Your Legend founder Scott Dinsmore (also at camp) told the story of how Live Your Legend meet-ups spontaneously sprouted around the world on the same day. (Scott does a bad-ass hand stand, too.)
Engage people on social media with right intention.
Reframe your digital endeavors.
Build up people, elevate them, enable their own fundamental need to belong. I’ve had rich conversations on LinkedIn of all places and even Twitter DM. There are thousands upon thousands of our fellow human beings seeking change, transformation, what’s next – and they’re a little terrified and a whole lot lonely.
Social media opens my mind and heart to humanity’s diversity and attunes me to our common aches, yearnings, and openings.
Eric Zimmer’s podcast The One You Feed offers space for those of us who want to feed our “good wolf.”
Podcast phenomenon John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneurs on Fire attended camp with us. His generous, open spirit was a marvel to behold. He holds space for all of us trepidatious about entering the podcast world.
Belonging and wholeness may or may not be your endeavor’s key ideal – the evocative emotional strum that captivates and elevates your people. But it might. Jonathan Fields, Camp GLP founder, told me a couple of years ago something surprising he realized: That people from his immersions were as drawn to if not more drawn to the community and to connection than to the content, as rich as the content is
I was skeptical then. I get it now. In my blood.
So grateful to run with you,